Catherine (Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss) put her aspirations on hold to manage the affairs of her famous artist father. Virginia (Katherine Waterston, Inherent Vice) is a trust-fund baby spending her days on perpetual vacation. They are not what you would call likable. These best friends are privileged women who slip into defensive posture whenever they feel the glare of judgment upon them, which is often. They are ostensibly there for each other, yet so self-involved they can barely break out of their own little bubbles. Neither writer/director Alex Ross Perry nor his actresses attempt to soften these characters. Yet, surprisingly, we actually come to care for them—or at the very least worry about them.
Anyone who had trouble putting up with Ben Stiller’s abrasive title character in Greenberg might pause before entering the world of one Philip Lewis Friedman. A bearded New York novelist whose second book is about to be published, Philip is self-centered, vindictive, and—worst of all—articulate. He’s played by Jason Schwartzman, an actor unafraid of letting his least appealing qualities hang out. Schwartzman understands how to throw himself into this kind of egotist; we can enjoy the actor’s skill even as we’re being repelled by the character.
In Listen Up Philip, this guy is meant to be a throwback to a certain kind of ’70s antihero (the movie’s got the grainy look of the era), as well as the kind of literary character that might have sprung from the pages of Philip Roth. Having said that, he’s still a jerk.
How many people have seen The Last Movie, Dennis Hopper’s notorious 1971 follow-up to Easy Rider? There is no shame in having missed it, as it’s been hard to locate since its initial flop—a failure that not only demolished Hopper’s career, but possibly smothered the final gasp of ’60s counterculture. One night in the early ’80s, I stayed up late to watch a TV broadcast of a Western titled Chinchero, only to gradually realize this was the infamous Last Movie itself, sneakily renamed and dumped into a late-show time slot. The film, about a Hollywood production that leaves behind a curious legacy for natives of its Peruvian location, is gaseous and self-indulgent, yet a lot of intriguing moments are strewn about the generally insufferable goings-on. Rebel Without a Cause writer Stewart Stern was the screenwriter, although one hesitates to ascribe credit amid reports of Hopper’s freewheeling shooting style.
This is the movie that inspired co-directors Raya Martin and Mark Peranson to concoct La Ultima Pelicula, a riff on Hopper’s grand folly and on subjects as lively as the end of film (because of the digital revolution) and the Mayan prediction of the world’s end in 2012.